Thursday, December 11, 2008

Book of the Month: December

This month in honour of Yule I have chosen Sisters Of The Earth edited by Lorraine Anderson. This is a compilation of prose, poetry, journal entries, essays and more by ninety women writers. All of the pieces relate to nature in different ways. Writers include: Emily Dickinson, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alice Walker, and Rachel Carson just to name a few.
My favorite story in this book is a journal entry written on Christmas day by Theodora Stanwell Fletcher (1906-1999). The entry is an exert from her book Driftwood Valley (1946) which is about her stay in north-central British Columbia, Canada many miles from "civilization" while collecting flora and fauna with her husband John for the British Columbia Provincial Museum at Victoria. I love to imagine the isolation of that time. Living in a tiny cabin in 50 below zero Celsius weather. No Internet hook up or cell phones to be found. The story is called: Christmas in Driftwood Valley. I try and read it each Christmas morning, as it is such a romantic notion to be alone in a snow filled bush (much more romantic to imagine when you are snug in a warm bed!) Here is a small sample that will give you the overall feel of the story:

"By the time dawn was coming we had scraped two peepholes in the frost on the panes; and we stood quiet to watch the winter sunrise. The radiant peaks of the Driftwoods, cut like white icing into pinnacles and rims against the apple-green sky, were brushed with pink, that, even as we watched, spread down and down and turned to gold. Rays of the sun, coming between the pointed firs of the east shore, stretched straight across the white lake, and as they touched it huge crystals, formed by the intense cold, burst into sparkling, scintillating light. The snow-bowed trees of the south and west shores were hung with diamonds; and finally the willows, around our cabin, were decked with jewels as large as robins' eggs that flashed red and green and blue. No Christmas trees decorated by human hands were ever so exquisite as the forested trees of this northern forest."

She goes on to describe their meal and a lovely adventure out in the snow before the temperature makes another dramatic drop. I also love how she concludes the story:

"Have we greatly missed the things that make Christmas Day in civilization? Other loved human beings, Christmas carols, wonderful food? I suppose so, but I think that this lack is more than made up for by the deep contentment of our healthy minds and bodies, by our closeness to and awareness of the earth, and of each other."

Sisters Of The Earth is a wonderful collection of thoughtful and provoking works. I cherish my copy and think that any one who enjoys short stories with a nature theme would love to read it.

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